2018 Ford Fiesta Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 30, 2018

The teensy 2018 Ford Fiesta lives its best life as a scintillating turbo-4 ST.

The 2018 Ford Fiesta compact sedan and hatchback were never going to rate highly on our scale. Small, inexpensive cars don't have th space, safety, or comfort of bigger cars. Even fuel economy—once the purview of compacts—is much better in bigger cars.

That said, we don’t find it difficult to find a Fiesta we like. Skip over most of the S and SE sedans and hatchbacks, even the pricey Titanium. If it’s a real party you have in mind, it’s tough to turn down the inviting Ford Fiesta ST.

As a family of cars, we give the 2018 Fiesta a 4.3 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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Spunky sheet metal keeps the Fiesta interesting to look at, eight model years down the road. The Fiesta sedan has a narrow, tall stance that doesn’t work nearly as well as the hatchback, with its sweeping roofline and pert, upkicked tail. It goes full boy-racer in the Fiesta ST, and we approve. Inside, the Fiesta’s cockpit excited us back when it was new, but always has confused us with myriad buttons tucked into inconvenient places.

The Fiesta starts its powertrain march with a 120-horsepower 4-cylinder and a 5-speed manual. It doesn’t mind being wrung out, and accelerates well within modern limits since it only weighs 2,600 pounds. You’ll want to avoid the dual-clutch automatic and its jerky shift action.

Our heart belongs to the Fiesta ST, though. With its 197-hp turbo-4, lowered suspension, fast steering, performance tires, and 6-speed manual, it’s a kink-loving lawn dart for the drone era.

One major drawback is the Fiesta doesn’t offer much room for humans. In front the base seats simulate the TGIFriday’s bar-lunch experience without the loaded potato skins. The Recaros on the ST? We’ll take those, thanks. In any trim level, on either body style, the Fiesta’s rear seats are miserably small, and even the hatchback’s cargo area undersizes, and underwhelms.

Low crash-test scores aren’t mitigated much by the newly standard rearview camera. Ford fits most Fiestas with power features and USB ports and Bluetooth with audio streaming, but the base cars people win on “The Price Is Right” have steelies and manual windows. At the expensive end of the Fiesta range, there’s Sony audio and ambient lighting, and touchscreen infotainment with navigation.

5

2018 Ford Fiesta

Styling

The Ford Fiesta’s busy interior is offset by its pert body.

The Ford Fiesta’s pert little body has resisted the ravages of time, but we’re ready for a new cockpit.

It’s worth a 5 in styling, thanks to good proportions that have worn well over eight model years. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Fiesta has expressive sheet metal that still looks the part of an extrovert. The roofline arches in a handsome way, the profile is crisp, and a slight wedge lifts the rear, and gives hints about its athletic ability. In front, the wide-mouth grille works well with its low ride height, and the headlights sweep back and integrate well with its fenders.

The Fiesta four-door isn’t as appealing. It’s difficult to draw that shape on such a short wheelbase, and the Fiesta sedan ends up looking too narrow and tall. The hatchback knits it together better, thanks to its long roof. In ST trim, it’s quite jazzy, with a deep air dam, chromed exhaust tips, a lower stance, and chunky wheels.

The Fiesta’s cockpit looked like the way to go back in 2011, when swoopy shapes and dramatic flourishes gave small cars some big-car depth. The Fiesta has better interior trim than some rivals, some nice fabrics and a sense of substance. The dash is festooned with buttons, though, and its touchscreen interface plugs into the top of the dash like an obvious afterthought. The design overwhelms efficient and clear operation of some of the small buttons and switches.

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5

2018 Ford Fiesta

Performance

Most versions of the 2018 Ford Fiesta have nimble handling, and the Fiesta ST has legitimate hot-hatch credentials; stay away from the dual-clutch.

With three choices in the engine column and lots of verve in the sporty ST, the 2018 Ford Fiesta gets some of its best scores in the performance column.

We give it a 5 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Most Fiestas sold in the States have a 1.6-liter inline-4 with 120 horsepower. It’s responsive enough, and revving it high extracts decent performance in the 10-second 0-60 mph range.

A 5-speed manual is a fine piece of standard equipment, but a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic can be fitted. The automatic boosts gas mileage, and it’s found on most Fiestas in rental fleets, but it does a poor job of replacing a conventional automatic with a shift-smoothing torque converter. Ford’s design has been troublesome since inception, and despite years of programming updates, it doles out poorly timed shifts that jerk at low speeds.

The best Fiesta by any stretch of the imagination is the sporty ST. It’s powered by a 1.6-liter turbo-4 with 197 hp, a lot of power for a car that weighs about 2,700 pounds. The engine twists out 202 lb-ft of torque at just 1,400 rpm, and happily cuts and thrusts like a larger performance car. It only comes with a manual transmission, so its appeal is admittedly limited.

The Fiesta charms drivers with its well-tuned steering and suspension, across the board. Even the cheapest models have electric power steering with lovely weighting and feedback. They feel secure at highway speeds, and nimble and responsive when the road gets kinky.

Handling is also quite good, though there’s no way around the Fiesta’s short wheelbase, its nose-dive under braking, and its sometimes jarring ride. It hops and skips over the worst bumps and potholes.

The performance ST edition won’t disappoint anyone who admires hot hatchbacks. It gets a slightly lower and stiffer suspension, quicker steering, rear disc brakes, and torque vectoring to make the most of its 214 lb-ft of torque, as well as grippy performance tires. It’s a point-and-shoot machine of the highest order, and worth a look for anyone considering cars with initials like GTI or STI.

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2018 Ford Fiesta

Comfort & Quality

Bad seats are the Ford Fiesta’s worst enemy, but space isn’t very good either.

Even in a niche of small cars, the Ford Fiesta is a pipsqueak. It can’t carry much in the way of cargo, and doesn’t have much room even for front passengers.

We rate it a 2 for comfort, utility, and quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Fiesta starts off on the wrong foot with seats that tease good support. They look good, but the front seats have short, flat bottom cushions, with all the support of a bar stool. Space is tight around them, and gets more restricted in back. If they can get in, 6-foot-tall adults will have to figure out where to put their feet, and how far to lean forward, to fit under the headliner. It’s narrow, so three across in back must be some kind of spec-sheet error. Even the front passenger and driver will rub elbows on occasion.

In the Fiesta ST, lovely form-fitting sport seats have much better low-back and lateral support, while they simultaneously cut into what little rear-seat leg room exists. STs also spit out lots of engine noise, though it’s entirely fitting in a car that handles like it does. It’s a go-fast soundtrack filled with intake noise and exhaust spittle, and it’s something to enjoy.

The Fiesta’s back seats fold down to create 26 cubic feet of cargo space, but compared to the Honda Fit at nearly twice that amount, the Fiesta’s a puny substitute. Sedans have a much more useful 12.8 cubic-foot trunk, larger than the one in a Cadillac ATS.

Ford tries its best to keep the Fiesta’s cabin from looking drab, with a decent grade of trim. Storage is plentiful, the driving position itself is fine, and Ford’s damped out a lot of the noisome sounds that might otherwise rush into the cabin.

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2018 Ford Fiesta

Safety

The Fiesta’s age is obvious from its crash-test scores.

Ford fits the Fiesta with a standard rearview camera for the 2018 model year, but it’s not enough to overcome poor crash-test performance. It rates a 3 out of 10 for safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The NHTSA says the Fiesta earns an overall rating of four stars, a score it also achieved in front and rollover-resistance tests. It’s rated at five stars for side impacts. However, the NHTSA reports that in its tests, the Fiesta’s left rear door pushed into the cabin during impact, and that could lead to a higher injury risk.

The IIHS has given the Fiesta hatchback “Good” scores in most tests, but its small-overlap front-impact rating came in at "Marginal."

All Fiestas have a driver knee airbag, and programming that countersteers the vehicle when it runs into heavy crosswinds. Ford doesn’t offer anything like blind-spot monitors, active lane control, or adaptive cruise control on the Fiesta.

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2018 Ford Fiesta

Features

The Ford Fiesta’s basic equipment list is too spartan for our tastes.

The Ford Fiesta has a sparse set of standard features, and some options can only be fitted to the most expensive models.

We rate it a 3 out of 10 here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

With a base price in the mid-teens, the Ford Fiesta S sedan and hatchback come with a 5-speed manual transmission and a 4-cylinder engine, as well as Bluetooth, air conditioning, a rearview camera, and an AM/FM/CD audio system with Bluetooth streaming.

The Fiesta SE adds in cruise control and power windows, as well as keyless entry. Remote start and a moonroof are options.

Other options include 16-inch or 17-inch wheels. Ford also offers its Sync 3 infotainment system as an option. It pairs a 6.5-inch touchscreen with two USB ports and smartphone-app connectivity, as well as satellite radio, cloth sport seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

Pricey Fiesta Titanium cars get automatic climate control, Sync 3, Sony audio, and heated leather front seats.

The sporty Fiesta ST starts with SE trim, and adds its own black and aluminum trim on the exterior and interior, a rear spoiler, ST sport seats, and 17-inch wheels with performance tires. Leather-trimmed Recaro front seats are an option, and come with heating and heated mirrors.

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2018 Ford Fiesta

Fuel Economy

A 4-cylinder Ford Fiesta can get up to 35 mpg highway, but so can some larger cars.

The latest Ford Fiesta gas mileage ratings put it in the upper echelons of gas-powered cars, but you’ll still do better with some mid-size family sedans. Don’t blame the little guy, blame the science of aerodynamics.

We give the Fiesta an 8 for fuel economy. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Fiesta’s stock powertrain is a 1.6-liter inline-4, coupled to a 5-speed manual. In that form it earns EPA ratings of 27 mpg city, 35 highway, 30 combined. With the available dual-clutch automatic, it’s set at 27/37/31 mpg.

The performance edition Fiesta ST is rated at 26/33/29 mpg.

Mid-size cars like the Honda Accord regularly check in with 35-mpg highway ratings. In some cases, size doesn’t matter as much as laminar air flow.

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$14,205
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4.3
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 5
Performance 5
Comfort & Quality 2
Safety 3
Features 3
Fuel Economy 8
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2018 Ford Fiesta Pricing Insights

  • 2019 Fiesta arriving; 2018s still on sale
  • $2,500 rebate on 2018s; $1,000 on 2019s
  • Lease a 2018 from $189 for 36 months
  • Get 0% APR for up to 60 months
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